SITE VISIT: The Nth Dimension

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Science  31 Mar 2000:
Vol. 287, Issue 5462, pp. 2371
DOI: 10.1126/science.287.5462.2371d

Celebrate Mathematics Awareness Month by exploring an electronic poster that presents a cornucopia of math links, games, and fun facts. This year's theme is “Math Spans All Dimensions,” so the site, hosted by the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics, naturally includes a page devoted to Edwin Abbott's classic book, Flatland. The beautifully written introduction to multidimensional spaces describes the travails of a two-dimensional square creature, and it's also a pointed satire of Victorian society. The full text is just a click away.

Other mind-bending features test your grasp of multidimensionality. Mathematician Jeffrey Weeks, famed for trying to determine the shape of the universe, has a page devoted to tilings, the science of covering surfaces with like-shaped tiles, and other geometric oddities. Fancy yourself a chess whiz? Play on a doughnut-shaped board, and the computer will likely trounce you. Worse yet, you can try playing on a Klein-bottle—a surface in four dimensions that has neither inside nor outside.

Four dimensions are child's play for theorists who regularly deal with infinite-dimensional spaces, but to ordinary mortals, a Java applet that allows you to rotate a hypercube in four dimensions might give a glimpse of higher dimensional spaces.

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